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Who needs tutors with a crowd-based homework/exam preparation platform?

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When I struggled as a high school student with a homework or exam preparation, I had a couple of solutions:

  • Call a friend and if I am very lucky after all the chit chat, the friend can somewhat help. Sometimes if am extremely lucky the friend is also able to clearly explain what was wrong in my approach
  • Reach out to my older sister who supposedly should be an expert of lower level homework – again only when I was very lucky was she able to “kind of help”
  • Most of the time I would end up with this third expensive option: getting a tutor to support me. I used to find those tutors to be very complicated and most of the time pretended to understand the logic behind the solution of a problem.

With all digital tools we have today, I may have a better solution that could completely disrupt the tutor industry:

 

A platform where struggling students post specific questions about a homework/ exam preparation. The platform would transfer the question to the most suited network of people based on:

  • School level
  • Geographic location (as school in different countries might have different topics covered)
  • Topic of question

For example, If I am a 6th grader in Boston and have a math question – the platform will show the question to other 6th graders in Boston who have pledged to be math experts. Only if I don’t get an answer within 5 minutes will the platform relegate the question to a wider network.

Value creation:

  • Fast answer to questions by relevant people who understand the strugglers and speak with the same level of complexity.1
  • Making tough homework solving a fun social activity

Value capture:

Like Wikipedia – donation based (ask users to donate as much as they can to help maintain the platform). People should be willing to donate given how much saving is expected vs. the traditional tutor solution.

Why would strugglers join?

This solution is not only cheaper than the traditional approach, but also more fun and interactive. By asking people from our tenure students wouldn’t feel intimidated to ask “stupid” questions. Also, the explanation coming from a person of the same age and tenure or close enough increases the likelihood of understanding since people from same age use same languae.

Why would solvers join?

The solvers will be rated based on the effectiveness of their answer and frequency of support. The top ranked ones will be rewarded on the platform very visibly. Potentially they could get a certificate that they could use on their CVs.

 

8 thoughts on “Who needs tutors with a crowd-based homework/exam preparation platform?

  1. I like this idea and truly believe there is a huge untapped ed-tech market with clear value to be captured. However, I was left wondering how quality was ensured through this platform i.e. is it a self-regulating platform or is there a moderator that ensures correctness of answers? while self-regulation is easier to manage it poses a lot of quality and credibility risk for the company, which could fundamentally make or break it. Additionally, it would be interesting to explore ways by which the company could increase the stickiness of their solvers since they are the major driver of users.

  2. Lama, this is super interesting! I was in the ed-tech world before business school and definitely agree there is opportunity to better tap into the crowd for tutoring. Khan Academy, in some ways is addressing this problem – as students can easily look up the concept that they are struggling on, watch a video to help them answer the question and post in the comments if they have more questions. People can upvote answers, but may not get responses in real-time. Another company, Zeal, shifted into this space delivering on demand tutoring via video, but in-order to control the quality of the teaching, hired tutors to work virtually instead of crowdsourcing the answers.

    Tied to that, one of the concerns I had was with ensuring high quality of tutoring: other 6th grade students might not know the right answers, or explain the concept in the same way that the teacher did – creating even more confusion. Some ways to solve that might to have HS / college students answer these questions instead of grade-level peers. They could even potentially get paid through the network and they could get rated based on their knowledge of different topic areas. You would have to gain scale quickly on the tutor side to make this work. Alternatively you could create mini-networks within schools where teachers could tap individuals as experts and a platform could then allow other students to reach out to them for support. This could also help teachers in real-time when many people in a classroom need help.

  3. Interesting concept! I really like the spirit of the model, but I do have a couple of concerns as well. First, in theory, tutors work well for students because they really learn what the right process for solving certain problems is, and acquire knowledge of the important concepts needed to solve those problems. In this model, I’d be concerned that students simply ask questions and get answers, without any real learning – I can see cases where people would for example just put up the various questions on their math homework and get straight answers, without really assimilating any of that information. A second concern for me (alluded to in the above comments as well) is answer quality – a voting / trust system can help solve some of this, but I’d imaging the questions being asked on these platforms generally warrant faster answers (e.g., for homework due the next day), and the rating system may not be able to provide feedback fast enough. A third concern is the incentive system for answerers – because of the prevalence of other, more recognized certifications (e.g., high school honor roll), I’m not sure a certificate or other types of certification would be that appealing to the “best” students, who’d rather put their energy into getting awards at their actual schools. I still think this is a great concept, but there are open questions as to the details.

  4. Great post! Although I do agree a need for a good platform like this, I do worry about the quality of content. For short Q&As this might be less of an issue, but how do you prevent check if people do not plagiarize or simply give a wrong answer or explain concepts in a confusing way? I therefore think, that even if you use a crowd-sourcing concept, some form quality control has to exist. For simple short questions, perhaps you can use AI to help check the rightness of an answer. But for the more convoluted problems, maybe students should have the option to ask an actual teacher. This could be offered as a paid option.

  5. Great post! Similar as what I thought about other crowd sourcing platforms, I’m pretty worried about the quality control as well. How could the platform control the quality of the answers? Especially when it is about education, things will definitely become more and more complex – how could the platform address the concerns of the parents? How could the platform make sure that the answers and tutoring process do not contain violence, sex or any other inappropriate contents for children?

  6. Thank you Lama this is a very interesting business model. I think the biggest challenge is that it’s a two-sided platform business and it will quickly run into a chicken and egg problem. My thoughts while I’m reading this is it would be great if there’s a partnership with existing school or even tutors. They will have an incentive to develop a reputation for being able to explain homework clearly. Then over time once the community is large enough then the need to partner will become insignificant.

  7. Lama I love this! I especially love the interactivity from the answerers side. I envision them participating to earn bragging rights, perhaps their parents will create a performance based home allowance compensation model?! LOL. Seriously though, I see a lot of similarities between the hopes that kids will respond to the great community Code Academy has been able to build. The most active contributors to the community are not paid and incentivized by the will and passion to sharing their knowledge. 🙂

  8. Lama, I second all our classmates in saying I love this. It is an amazing idea. I read the Brainly postwhich looks similar: https://digit.hbs.org/submission/brainly-leveraging-the-wisdom-of-the-crowds-to-do-your-homework/?section=2917&sort=comment_count-most . Do you think you can capture value by getting parents to sign-up for their kids? As this is where I see that the most challenge lies i.e. in the value-capture, because your platform truly creates value through crowdsourcing. Tokenizing the whole process could also gamify it and increase use-engagement and possibly the opportunity to value-capture.

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